Netflix hits back after Spielberg Oscars backlash

Netflix has hit back at an apparent backlash to its eligibility for the Oscars from filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

The streaming service – which saw its critically acclaimed film Roma win three of the 10 Academy Awards it was nominated for this year – posted a tweet listing the benefits of being able to watch films online.

It comes after reports that Spielberg, the legendary director behind films including Jurassic Park, ET and Saving Private Ryan, has criticised Netflix’s inclusion at the Oscars.

Spielberg, who is a member of the Academy, is said to be in support of rule changes to be discussed at an upcoming meeting of the organisation’s board of governors, which could disqualify Netflix from the Oscars.

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Roma is up for 10 Oscars. Pic: David Lee/Focus Features/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock
Image: Roma won three Oscars. Pic: David Lee/Focus Features/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

He has previously said that TV films should compete for Emmys, but not Academy Awards.

In an indirect response, Netflix Film tweeted on Monday.

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“We love cinema. Here are some things we also love:

– Access for people who can’t always afford, or live in towns without, theaters

– Letting everyone, everywhere enjoy releases at the same time

– Giving filmmakers more ways to share art

“These things are not mutually exclusive.”

Alfonso Cuaron scooped several awards for Roma
Image: Alfonso Cuaron picked up the Academy Award for best director for Roma

Spielberg’s production company Amblin Entertainment told IndieWire last week: “Steven feels strongly about the difference between the streaming and theatrical situation.”

The criticism of Netflix has created much online debate over the past few days, with many arguing that the streaming service has been an important supporter of minority filmmakers and stories.

In the UK, Vue cinemas founder and chief executive Tim Richards has written to BAFTA to say that Roma’s win for best film should be disqualified.

He told Sky News that while he believes there is a place for streaming services, films shown at cinemas for a limited period simply to qualify for awards should not be included.

Roma did have a short run in cinemas ahead of this year’s major awards ceremonies.

Vue cinemas founder and chief executive Tim Richards
Image: Vue cinemas boss Tim Richards wants Roma disqualified from its BAFTA win

Mr Richards said: “There has always been awards for made-for-TV movies, there’s been awards for short films, there’s been awards for video games.

“It’s not about the quality of the film… I’ve seen some incredible short films by some amazingly talented directors, but a movie is defined as a film that has a wide theatrical release, in other words in a lot of cinemas, for a period of time, so it is a real movie.

“There are very set rules… there’s a provision in there that actually says if the film is released in cinemas solely for the purpose of getting an award then it doesn’t qualify. I think it’s pretty clear… Netflix are desperate for awards; this is a movie that cost $ 15m dollars to make and the current estimates are that they spent $ 60m promoting it for the Academy Awards and for the BAFTAs.”

But many have spoken out in support of Netflix.

Franklin Leonard, who founded The BlackList, which surveys the best unproduced scripts in Hollywood, pointed out that Netflix’s first four major Oscar campaigns – Beasts of No Nation, The 13th, Mudbound and Roma – were all by and about people of colour.

“It’s possible that Steven Spielberg doesn’t know how difficult it is to get movies made in the legacy system as a woman or a person of color,” he said. “In his extraordinary career, he hasn’t exactly produced or executive produced many films directed by them.”

He said that while Spielberg is “a legend”, he ultimately wants “to see as many amazing movies from as many different points of view as possible and for as many people as possible to be able to see them”.

Netflix did not produce Beasts of No Nation, Mudbound or Roma, but acquired them for distribution.

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